Carolyn Kent '08 — Founder and Executive Director of Global Connections for Change

Carolyn Kent graduated from Duke University in 2008 with a Major in International Comparative Studies, Minor in Spanish and a Global Health Certificate. After graduation, she worked as a consultant at Ascendient for two years focusing on health care reform research and strategic planning for hospitals and health systems. In 2008, she founded a 501(c)(3) non-profit called Global Connections for Change that organizes community-building fundraising events for existing community organizations. Carolyn served as a Municipal Development Peace Corps Volunteer in Guatemala from 2010-2012 and is currently a ProInspire Fellowworking with the Executive Team at National 4-H Council.

Walking onto campus for the first time as a freshman, I wasn’t exactly sure what kind of pre-professional track I belonged to but I definitely knew that I wanted to explore the myriad of academic opportunities that Duke had to offer. I had a passion for helping others, a thirst for learning about my Latin American roots, and a desire to be inspired by new ideas.

With those three things in mind, I became incredibly interested in the intersection of international development, global health, history, and entrepreneurship. Those subjects didn’t seem to connect to anyone else on campus, but I strongly believed that international development had to be approached in a holistic manner. I saw entrepreneurship as a mechanism to inspire others to become agents for change in their own communities and knew that a strong historical understanding of a country would help me understand its culture, beliefs and perspectives. The ICS major allowed me to take an interdisciplinary approach to my learning experiences at Duke so that I could gain the knowledge I needed to succeed in an international career.

Despite my parents' incessant comments and questions about how my major was going to help me “land a job”, my broad range of experiences set me apart from other candidates while going through rigorous interview processes. The study abroad experiences I had while at Duke inspired me to found Global Connections for Change which provides funding for HIV/AIDS education efforts in Durham and Tanzania as well as scholarships for Guatemalan youth. The analytical thinking skills and cultural perspectives I gained while taking classes for my ICS major helped me succeed as a Peace Corps Volunteer as well. The ICS department always encouraged me to be intellectually curious and it is that curiosity, humble nature and open-minded attitude that helps Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs) successfully integrate and partner with their communities to achieve positive change. As a PCV, I was able to work with my community to build Guatemala’s first Mayan Educational Center made with eco-bricks and secure a $35,000 start-up grant from the Inter American Foundation. My one piece of advice to any Duke student is that creating an academic experience that focuses on new learning experiences and going out of your comfort zone is far more rewarding than pursuing a major to conform to external pressures. No other major gave me the flexibility to pursue my passion, and for that I am incredibly grateful for the ICS Department.